Warriors coach Elliott gets behind Kiwi Nines

DAVID LONG
Last updated 12:21 24/02/2013
Matt Elliott
Photosport
MATT ELLIOTT: "If you look hard enough you'll find someone to say something negative."

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Head coach Matt Elliott says the Warriors are fully behind the concept of the Auckland Nines next year and would like to see the tournament eventually opened up to teams outside the NRL.

The 16 NRL club chief executives last week voted to further explore the feasibility of making it an annual event from next year, replacing the first week of trials.

Despite them liking the idea there are critics, with Australian captain Cameron Smith last week joining the likes of Wayne Bennett, Phil Gould and Trent Robinson in voicing his opposition, warning that the players may take industrial action against it.

"Do you want Greg Inglis to play five or six years and be burnt out? Or do we want to give him an opportunity to be in our game for 10 years?" Smith questioned.

"I want Johnathan Thurston, Billy Slater, Greg Inglis, Benny Barba, to play as long as they can.

"You keep throwing these games on, on top, I think you're asking for trouble...without giving somewhere else.

"If you want to have a Nines tournament, if you want to play an All-Star game, take some games out of the season, make it 20 rounds, play your Origin series, play your test series, and you can have these extra four or five games at the start of the year."

The Nines would involve 16 clubs playing across a maximum of 31 18-minute matches (each club playing between three and six) over two days.

Elliott says squads will need to be managed for the Auckland Nines, but believes it is a good route for the game to go down.

"There are a lot of benefits, as long as we can use extended squads.

"There is an acknowledgement that guys who play in the world cup should have the opportunity to put their feet up and watch it from the grandstand."

It is hoped that the Auckland Nines will do for the city what the Wellington Sevens does for the capital, and Elliott feels it can get more people interested in league.

"It is a good opportunity for people to get a bit of a look at the whole of the comp," he said.

"I don't know about the concept, but there is some merit about having some invitations from international teams as well, I think that will be great.

"That's maybe something that develops over a period of time if the concept grows, but we have seen in this country [with sevens] how this concept can be sold to fans.

"We are in favour of it definitely and for a few reasons," he added.

"One is because it is a great opportunity for the game to sell itself to a different market and we are also talking about having it here [in Auckland] which is a perfect opportunity to grow our fan base."

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As for the critics, Elliott said: "If you look hard enough you'll find someone to say something negative.

"I'd be surprised if that was the view right across the board."

- Sunday News

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